Fourth Ascent West Face of El Cap 1971


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Social climber
No Ut
Oct 9, 2006 - 09:43am PT
Let's have more tales from you!

I actually had a good time with Don at the party. Really did exorcise the ghost. It's all a fond memory to me. now. Also, for effect and brevity, I may have omitted a few fine moments we had on the climb, in bivys talking about future climbing dreams, etc. And maybe I had earned some of Don's fury? Anyway, I wish him the best.

Good to hear the old Squamish boys are healthy and climbing. Never met many of you guys, although I did do the Grand Wall with Don Serl, once. Always loved reading the old big wall accounts in the CAJ. They were much more immediate and real than the American, Robbins-style account (which had its' charms, too, don't get me wrong - the Tis-a-Ack story was to me his best effort, although as a young kid I was blown away by his story of the first climb of the NA, ergo my desire to repeat the climb).

Long time, no see. I've been digging through your various threads and enjoying them immensely!

Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Oct 9, 2006 - 10:30am PT
Meed Hargis, he was a ranger back then wasn’t he Werner?

Oct 9, 2006 - 12:18pm PT
Not when he did the NA, Patrick. Couple of years later he became.

Mead walked by this summer while I was working, barely recognized him.

right here, right now
Oct 9, 2006 - 12:33pm PT
Hey All,
I agree that a compilation of these various stories by a few supertopians would make a nice printed volume. Peter Haan's story telling in particular has all the gravity, construct and draw of a good read.

Here's an idea which may supplement or introduce such a publication: Sewellymon will be putting together some questions for a Mark Powell interview and will likely contact a few of you to help with the formation. I hope this reveals some good formative insight to round out our historical interest.

Hey Jello,
Thanks for the compliment; check your email for Donny's phone number. Maybe a gentle nudge would be good for him, per some pictures or stories. He can be really smart and funny and might like to hear from you.


Sport climber
Venice, Ca
Oct 9, 2006 - 12:35pm PT
Keep those stories comming, Peter. Always sparks great memories.

Dale B. and i did the 2nd one day ascent of El Cap via the West Face, I think in '75 (but this hardly counted as a one day ascent becuase it's not really on the main wall). I was just out of school and was worried about not being in shape but we got to the big ledge before the sun hit the wall and soloed off and gained the top after only 5 hours. But I could kick myself for not looking closer and realizing the wall could have been free climbed. When I went back later I was amazed how easy the first two pitches (the leading crux) were (but without fixed gar the pro was a bit sketchy--bashies and smashed wires). No question you guys could have freed it back in '71, which would have been a giant coup. I always look at the West Face as "The one that got away."

Kindly submit more stories. How about climbing thin cracks with those fat fingers or yours??

Bart Fay

Social climber
Redlands, CA
Oct 9, 2006 - 05:33pm PT
The elephant in the room that no one discuses.

JLargo. Author of several multi-topical short story compilations.
Why does this seem so obvious ?

JL books at

Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Nov 16, 2008 - 10:43pm PT
Great tales!

It's been 21 years since I did the West face in a day with Scott Burk, and 28 years since I did the N.A. Wall, so they were well back in the day, but reading these fellow's stories, I still feel lightweight!!

Great thread.

Social climber
Newport, OR
Nov 16, 2008 - 10:46pm PT
Great post Peter! You are one of our legends growing up! I got to do the west face free with Eric "E" Erickson in '81 (or was it '82?) and it was brilliant...
scuffy b

On the dock in the dark
Nov 17, 2008 - 09:51pm PT
Great story, Peter.
So this is the story that trolled Jello out of hiding?
Extra bonus, new and improved.

I'll comment on the Peterson touches in the thread.
Until fairly recently, I had believed that Robbins' article
on Tis-Sa-Ack was actually a collaborative effort (dopey me,
Well, one of the things I recall is that Peterson was resentful
of the patronizing stance that Robbins took toward him.
So, among the reasons Peterson thought himself worthy of better
treatment from RR is that he had done all these walls, including
the NA Wall in a faster time than Robbins.
Isn't that how it goes?
Now we find out he hadn't done NA at all at the time of
the TIS-Sa-Ack adventure
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 17, 2008 - 11:10pm PT

This is interesting..... Tis-sa-ack FA was autumn of 1969. Jello's ascent was, he says, 1970. The Tis-sa-ack story hinges on Pederson's having done the NA BEFORE the Half Dome climb....How does that work? No clue. V. interesting. I think someone has the dates wrong; I can't imagine RR not having all the facts right. But Jello's depiction of the Don fury phenomenon was good. There were a few male screamers back then, maybe now too. Sacherer, Schmitz, DP. REALLY a drag to be within 1500 ft of them when the switch flicked on. I endured this on Vendetta and L. side of The Slack with Kim and it basically ended our partnership.

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Nov 17, 2008 - 11:24pm PT
I climbed the West Face almost in a day back in '95 before I retired from free climbing. It was late October and we reached Thanksgiving ledge in the dark, and rather than go for the summit we bivi'd there. We only had one sweater each and it soon became pretty cold. So I scrounged under the manzanitas and got a big pile of firewood, and we built a fire under the ledge to stay warm. Every hour or so I'd wake up cold, and toss some more wood on the fire. Actually had a pretty comfortable night.

I know I got all the pitches free, except for one 5.11 somewhere in the middle. I sure couldn't do that these days! And for that reason I consider the West Face one of my proudest El Cap routes.

Thanks for the stories, guys. Evidently I missed this one first time round. Looking at the date - the middle of the fall wall season - I know why!

Jeff - your experience with Don comes as no surprise, having read the classic "interview account" of the FA of Tis-sa-ack! too funny!
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 17, 2008 - 11:33pm PT
No Sew, it was the NA wall. Re-read the RR article where he (DP) hisses about "it can't be any harder than what I did on the fifth (?) pitch of the NA".

Plus, irregardless, apparently DP jumared the first several pitches as a stand-in. I don't know, maybe Jello has his year wrong...???

Nov 18, 2008 - 12:12am PT
I should stay out of this sort of thing but this may help:

Don P and Mead Hargis had done a fast ascent of the Dihedral Wall in, I think, 1969.

Mead and Don had also been up a few pitches of the NA, to check it out I guess. I recall Mead telling me they had chopped a bolt (placed by the 2nd ascent party?) on the third pitch. This was prior to the Tiss-a -ack hullabaloo and is presumably to what Peterson refers in Robbins article.

Mead subsequently did the NA with John Rosskelly; there was an article he wrote in Summit about it.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 18, 2008 - 12:21am PT
Robbins (in his own voice): "On the way up Don asked if there was anything on the North America Wall harder than the third pitch. I told him no - as hard but not really harder. Well then, he said, we shouldn't have trouble with the rest of it. Mead Hargis and I have been up the third pitch and it wasn't too bad. Oh really, I said. Well, it might be a little easier now because Hennek and Lauria had to place a bolt. Oh no, he said, we chopped it. We went right on by."

From "Tis-sa-ack", a fine bit of writing. No other references to the NA in the article that I could find.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 18, 2008 - 12:57am PT
thanks guys. that clears it up. It was so long ago, you know. Right Roskelley. Later on. How fun was that?!?!?

Barcelona, Spain
Nov 18, 2008 - 06:13am PT
Thanks for another great read. I still have to give Anne-Marie Rizzi my nod for stories about partner problems, though.

I think I may have bivvied at the spot you mention, somewhere around the 8th or 9th pitch? The description seems familiar, but it was a while ago.

Social climber
From the Time Before the Rocks Cooled.
Aug 23, 2015 - 04:42pm PT
Damn. Looks like I'll need to go back and revise my resumé downwards, Peter. ;-)

We always thought we did the fourth ascent of the West Face back in 1972, but now I see we were way off. Dennis Bird, Jim Hoagland, Dominique Thomas, and I did the route in a single push back in September of 1972, and Dominique always (probably rightly) believed that he did the first French ascent, being a French national and certified French guide and all.

We had a very fun time, and the larger, four-man ascent meant that we had lots of supplies, shared hauling, and loads of time to relax and enjoy the adventure of our first serious big wall.
Bad Climber

Aug 23, 2015 - 09:00pm PT
Interesting stories, and thanks for the bump. The West Face was my one and only El Cap route back in 1980. I was 18 at the time. One post above mentioned fixed ropes on the first two pitches? A pox on that. We had to do some genuine hooking, although there were a number of fixed copperheads. I, too, took a fall off a hook on the second pitch but fought my way through. A great adventure! We bivied twice--a nice, casual pace.

climber bob

Social climber
Aug 24, 2015 - 05:25am PT
I spent a night in that slot when I climbed the w f with mark appling bitd.

Gross Vegas
Oct 8, 2015 - 06:25pm PT
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